There's no shortage of advice for writers out there. I get emails from adults who write and teens who want to write. It seems like everyone has questions and I answer them all because I'm a big believer in karma and what goes around comes around.
But while there's lots of advice, I've found that it can sometimes be contradictory. Recently a writer friend was giving a "Book Publishing 101" workshop at her local library. She asked other writers to offer advice or tips. Once I wrote mine and emailed them to her realized that there are other writers who would say something very different based upon their experience and personality. Because every writer is different, and every writer's experience unique, advice should be taken for what it is - one person's view of the publishing world and what works. Here's what I offered up:
I had never attended a writing workshop, never attended a conference, didn't have a Web site or a blog, and didn't have drawers full of manuscripts written over the course of years when I was first published. I just had one manuscript and did my homework on agents before querying.
I hear all the time about writers who attend critique groups, go to conferences, blog their hearts out, spend hours on developing their Web sites and book trailers and friending people on Facebook - all before they've even so much as finished writing a book! I think that today (unlike when when I was first published and nobody had even conceived of Facebook) so many writers get caught up in the "stuff" you can do instead of what you HAVE to do. Write a kick-ass book. Write a killer query letter. Know who reps the type of book you've written and contact them.
Nothing substitutes for focusing on the writing and being smart about your submission. The writing comes first. Being smart about querying and submissions comes second. All that other stuff is icing for a never-been-published writer. There's plenty of time once you've sold your book to blog about it, to put up a Web site, to network and get the word out there. Focusing on all that "stuff" is like picking the color of your car and the type of sound system you'll have before the motor's even been installed. I don't care how "pretty" it all looks and how "pretty" it all sounds. You need a solid motor that runs before you can get anywhere.
I'm sure there are lots of published authors who had a different experience and would offer different advice - like attend lots of conferences, join a critque group, use social media to gain attention. What are your thoughts?